Paul Greenberg

Marion Bower, 68, says she applied for tax-exempt status but kept getting weird requests from the IRS. The government wanted copies of her blog. It also let her know, just by the way, you understand, that the IRS had already made some copies of her group's website. It also wanted a list of the officers in her branch of the tea party, inquired about what it did at meetings, and asked how its board was chosen. To top it off, the IRS inquired about her reading habits.

Shades of "Fahrenheit 451." Who knows, she could have been reading subversive literature like the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution, complete with all that dangerous talk about freedom of speech and the "right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures . . . ."

How did Miss Marion feel about being asked all these impertinent questions? "I felt like, my goodness, what in the world is going on here?" she told ABC. "Is this ever going to end?"

Since the IRS told her it wanted to know what kind of things she and her group were reading, she sent its snoops a copy of the United States Constitution. The lady does have a sense of irony. In short, she sounds like my kind of girl. Just wait till the IRS finds somebody reading The Federalist Papers. There'll be hell to pay.

You don't have to be a Republican to see something wrong, very wrong, with what has been going on here.

The first domino has already fallen -- the acting head of the IRS has resigned under fire. How many more officials need to go? And why is the "career public servant" who was supposed to be supervising how these tax exemptions are granted -- Lois Lerner -- still on the government payroll?

Such scandals are not easily contained, and shouldn't be when they're as far-reaching as this one. Remember the parade of resignations-cum-convictions that accompanied Watergate?

Barack Obama now joins the long and impressive list of presidents whose administrations used the IRS for partisan purposes and dirty tricks in general. That list includes some notable names: Franklin D. Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, Bill Clinton -- those Democratic saints -- in addition to Richard Nixon, whom even most Republicans now disavow.

The country's current chief executive, President Innocent Bystander, talks as if the IRS were part of somebody else's administration. And expressing outrage at its dirty tricks. ("Americans have a right to be angry about it, and I'm angry about it.") Just as Richard Nixon tried to distance himself from Watergate early in that scandal. But the strategy might work for Mr. Obama, who is adept at dodging responsibility. We're all supposed to believe his administration had nothing to do with trying to cover up Benghazi, either.

Somebody once said that opposition in government makes good administrations better -- and bad administrations gone. Well, opposition certainly made the Nixon administration gone. And not an hour too soon.

Where this latest scandal at the IRS will lead is anybody's guess at this point. Maybe it will just fade away, as Democrats may be hoping. But some folks -- like conservatives, the press, and conservatives in the press (yes, there are some) -- will see to it that this affair gets a full airing.

Trust me.


Paul Greenberg

Pulitzer Prize-winning Paul Greenberg, one of the most respected and honored commentators in America, is the editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.


 


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